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R. Wood "ryecroftwood2"

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Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast
Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast
by Anjum Anand
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.58

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anjum offers some SUPERB vegetarian dishes here!, 10 Oct. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I ordered this cook book for my mum off Amazon Vine. Due to her really enjoying cooking & being a fan of Anjum Anand's work, this Indian Vegetarian Feast book seemed like a good idea. And my mum has really found the book worthwhile.

After cooking a few recipes from this, she found the instructions clear & concise, with the ingredients easily obtainable from good supermarkets. The recipes on offer here are made all the more enticing thanks to the wonderful pictures accompanying them, and the results themselves are really successful and accurate. When my mum tested the recipes, she found the seasonings (more-or-less) spot-on, with no alterations to the ingredients necessary. Anjum's methods here are absolutely impeccable! You certainly won't go far wrong following them!

In my own opinion (as a non-vegetarian), I certainly didn't miss the meat from the dishes that came out of this book. The meals in here will certainly appeal to both vegetarians & otherwise, and for the meat-eaters, this will make for a most refreshing change indeed. Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast is nothing short of a winning formula for fans & cooks alike. Overall, my mum found this to be an inspirational cookery book, and would recommend it to all.

Fast & Furious: The 6 Movie Collection [DVD] [2001]
Fast & Furious: The 6 Movie Collection [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Vin Diesel
Price: £17.00

57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast - Furious - Fun - Franchise!, 9 Oct. 2013
Can't believe that it was 12 years ago. Back in 2001, I was in college, with all my mates going on about this latest film starring Vin Diesel, featuring flashy supercars, girls & insane car chases, called The Fast & The Furious. I watched it, enjoyed it...expected a sequel, maybe two...

But I NEVER envisioned an entire series would follow.

Cars, car-chases, guns, crashes, girls's a winning formula for dumb, cinematic entertainment, but the Fast & Furious Franchise has proven itself to be more than that. Why it's been able to thrive and generate a strong fan-base is because the makers have actually cared about producing something worthwhile. The series has prided itself on telling an actual story, with characters you can emotionally invest in, and after over a decade, the Fast & Furious has become (dare I say) an epic, with exciting stunts/action, with a well-developed story & deep-enough characters to make this phenomenon ideal for all action film enthusiasts.

Now, Universal Pictures have released several box-sets in the past collecting all-current Fast Films as time's gone on. The franchise has no signs of slowing down anytime soon, what with Film No. 7 out next year, and chapters 8 & 9 having been confirmed also. So, if you still don't own any of the Fast & Furious films on DVD, now seems as good a time as any to collect all the films (currently) on one bargain box set.

This box-set contains all (to-date) six films; The Fast & The Furious (2001), 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), Fast & Furious (2009), Fast & Furious 5 (2011) and Fast & Furious 6 (2013). One slipcase, with three DVD cases containing two-discs (movies) each. In total, you've got under twelve hours of rollickingly good entertainment with plenty of thrilling stunts, yet also enough story & character to make it more than just mindless fun.

Throughout the series, there's a range of excellent, distinctive main characters, all of which are portrayed with the grit, determination & emotion that their roles require. Of course, Vin Diesel is the star of the series as anti-hero Dominic Toretto, the violent criminal with a moral code & heart of gold (deep down). Plus there's Brian O'Conner (the late, great Paul Walker RIP), the undercover-cop turned fugitive, Mia Toretto (Jordanna Brewster) as Dom's strong-willed, capable sister & Brian's love-interest, and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), the feisty, tough & tragic lover of Dom.

All these characters, plus the rest of the main-cast, are truly ones to love. There're no duds whatsoever. You can laugh with them, you can feel for them, and (as I said earlier), they're all so well-developed as the series progresses, that it makes the films even more special. And some genuine moments of hilarity & heartbreak counter-balance the films' high-octane action nicely. This is a series that's really quite remarkable.

Alas, the Fast & Furious franchise isn't a thing of absolute perfection, with the movies themselves varying in terms of quality. The Fast & The Furious deserves recognition for starting it all, and while it's still an entertaining spectacle with a good story, it IS surpassed by later entries in the series. 2 Fast 2 Furious suffers from Vin Diesel being absent altogether, but it deserves props for developing Brian O'Conner's character, and introducing the likes of Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) & Tej Parker (Ludacris) as future mainstays to the series.

Sadly, the series is let down by the third movie, Tokyo Drift, which is truly the worst entry by far! In its attempt to further expand the Fast & Furious setting, it fails due to its cringing story (which resembles that of a god-awful teen flick) and the stunts themselves proving inferior to those in the other films! However, Tokyo Drift is of great importance to the series' overall spectrum, due to it (chronologically) being the final film of the series (before Fast 7), and it DOES have the likeable Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) & the EVEN-MORE likeable & ill-fated character Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang).

Despite Tokyo Drift being a major letdown, Director Justin Lin REALLY hits his stride with the following trilogy (Fast & Furious 4, 5 & 6), delivering the next three chapters with more-blistering car chases & hard-hitting action than ever before! As well as taking the overall story-arc & family of characters to new heights, with fab development and major twists & turning points along the way. Introducing more great characters in the form of Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot), Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) and Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne `The Rock' Johnson), the second Fast & Furious trilogy showcases the series at the height of its brilliance, due to its tighter story-structure and the action/excitement being at its peak! Watch out for the ending of Fast 6! I can't wait for Fast 7 next year!

Finally, special-features. There's an excellent range of extras on each film disc (barring Fast 6 which comes without any special DVD features here), boasting trailers, documentaries, audio commentaries, deleted scenes etc. Plus this set comes equipped with the option to copy the films onto other media devices. There's plenty to sink your teeth into, and all this plus the films themselves make this set an absolute bargain at twenty-five quid!

Overall, the Fast & Furious 6 Movie Collection is ideal for fans. If (like me) you love/like the series, yet haven't purchased any of the films (together or separately) before, then now's definitely the right time. Is any of this Oscar-winning-material? NO! But we don't love Fast & Furious for THAT! We love it because it's exhilarating and it's fun! That's all that matters!
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 5, 2015 2:22 PM BST

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)
The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)
by Robert Galbraith
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Utterly engaging read that's FULL of humanity, 24 Sept. 2013
J.K. Rowling's name demands instant respect & admiration the moment you utter it. You only have to consider the overwhelming success of Harry Potter to know of her talent & writing style. Her background, what she's accomplished, what she's done for children & literature's beyond remarkable.

As is what J.K. Rowling is doing NOW, by developing her writing even more and moving on further from Harry Potter by writing adult fiction. We've already seen that with The Casual Vacancy, but her latest venture - The Cuckoo's Calling - is another impressive effort in further progressing her craft. Especially when J.K. decided to write it under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith.

The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. (or rather, Robert) is a crime novel, about troubled-model Lula Landry who falls to her death. Ultimately written off as suicide, Lula's brother refuses to accept this, convinced that it's murder, so he hires Private Investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case. As you'd expect, this simple premise turns out to be so much more, in terms of stakes, content & tremendous depth. This is an exceptional book, with it's greatest strength being Rowling's complete understanding of character.

Rowling has breathed loads of humanity into her latest tale. There's plenty of conversational-moments, languages, dialogue, domestic situations etc, that's very true-to-life. The Cuckoo's Calling is a very character-driven novel, which is what I love about it. It certainly benefits from having two strong leading protagonists, Cormoran Strike (an old war veteran) and Robin Ellacott (his secretary temp). Both have their own unique backgrounds/domestic situations, and both characters develop splendidly right from the word `go'. Their interaction and relationship is ace, and I think a lot of aspiring writers can benefit from J.K.'s perfect grasp of character/interaction. All the other characters are certainly distinctive and are utilised perfectly for each of their roles in the story.

The charming. It may not be the correct term to describe what is an adult and quite dark novel, but this is nevertheless a really-well written novel indeed. There's no dull moments, there's all manner of clues, red-herrings and intricacies to keep the book flowing, there's the right amount of detail in the settings, the character-backgrounds etc, The Cuckoo's Calling is a treat to read.

I can also understand why Rowling wanted to remain anonymous under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith), as a desire to move away further from Harry Potter and show just how varied her writing is. Truthfully, if the identity behind the author hadn't come out, I wouldn't have known it was her. There's No giveaway whatsoever. Which I think is wonderful, and shows just how versatile this woman truly is.

As a crime novel, The Cuckoo's Calling is an excellent one. But when comparing it to say, the works of Agatha Christie or Kerry Wilkinson (author of the Jessica Daniels series), there are times when this book lacked the genuine suspense and tensions it needed throughout. Although this intelligent book has such moments (particularly in the climactic final moments), I felt there could've been more. What Rowling's novel has in terms of character & heart (and there's TONNES of that!), it lacks in a really engaging plot. After being subjected to say Kerry Wilkinson's Vigilante, I felt that maybe The Cuckoo's Calling could've benefited even more with the plot to match all the wonderful character-detail.

But this is this only a minor criticism in what is overall a tremendously good read. The Cuckoo's Calling is the first in what is hopefully a series of many more adventures to come featuring Strike & Robin (courtesy of `Robert Galbraith'). I look forward to the next installment, and recommend this one to all readers.

Nothing Left to Burn
Nothing Left to Burn
Price: £4.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking little album from some jolly good headbangers!, 3 Sept. 2013
To What End are a bunch of hard-rock, heavy metal preachers, who perform with tremendous enthusiasm, legitimate passion and the genuine talent you'd expect to find from independent bands/artists who are working hard to catch their big break. Nothing Left To Burn is the group's first album, and their potential is blatant from start-to-finish.

Listening to this album reminded me of why I love listening to stuff like Alter Bridge, Sevendust, Trust Company, Eighteen Visions etc. The content on Nothing Left to Burn is fast, furious and ultimately ideal for metal fans. The songs are well-written, and they're all performed with SUCH vim & vigour that you can't help but admire the efforts of the band.

Overall, there's some really energetic and blistering sounds here; the best tracks being "My Demon, My Angel", "It Has to Be", and "Enemy in Me". Criticisms? One or two of the songs haven't quite got a distinctive enough flavour, and I WISH there were a few more tracks to sink my teeth into, but these are only minor issues of what's (all-in-all) a strong debut album. And really, you're getting six tracks here for three quid. It's a no-brainer.

To What End have got a lot of potential going for them. With more discipline, I reckon they'll go far indeed. The levels of enthusiasm and talent clearly show, and the result is an album I would really recommend.

Iron Man 3 [DVD]
Iron Man 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert Downey Jr.
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £11.99

8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fails to meet the standards of its predecessors & The Avengers, 27 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Iron Man 3 [DVD] (DVD)
Hard to believe that it was FIVE years ago that Robert Downey Jr. took centre stage as Tony Stark in the smash-hit film Iron Man (2008). Since that inspired performance in what was one of the sharpest & most-refreshing superhero films ever produced, Robert became a household name and Iron Man's popularity matched that of Superman, Batman & Spider-Man in no time at all.

The greatness continued in 2010's Iron Man 2. A film (which in my honest opinion) was EVERY-BIT-AS-GOOD as its predecessor (regardless of what others say!), continuing the cinematic journey of Tony Stark/Iron Man and his world in brilliant fashion. And by the time last year's masterpiece The Avengers came along, Robert Downey Jr. had truly cemented his legacy forever as both a phenomenal actor and an icon.

So OBVIOUSLY, we had to check out Iron Man 3. Especially given that it takes place right after The Avengers. But does Iron Man 3 match the standard set by the earlier prequels and The Avengers?

Unfortunately, no.

Tony's life was changed forever by the events of The Avengers. The universe is bigger and wilder than he'd dare dream. Tony's struggles to accept that has resulted in severe anxiety issues. His relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) has become more questionable than ever and when things couldn't get any worse...Tony and all he cares about will come under fire from the feared Mandarin.

It all sounds great. The initial trailers showed much promise, but the final product is let down severely by new director Shane Black (succeeding Jon Favreau), and the direction he takes the franchise in. Black ditches Favreau's approach (sharp, witty, relatable and none-too-serious) in favour of a darker, harder & more-convoluted presentation. In doing so, Black forgets the ingredients that made Iron Mans 1 & 2 so appealing, whilst trying to produce something that mirrors The Dark Knight Rises. While this is admirable, it can't compare with Christopher Nolan's genius and his efforts in making Bruce Wayne/Batman a truly tragic & inspirational figure (with the tale to match).

Of course, the tools ARE there with the character of Tony Stark (who's more troubled & tragic than ever here). Iron Man's clearly been affected by what's happened to him previously, and various flashbacks are used to great affect. The circumstances DO shape Tony into a harder & even more inspirational individual, but while the development works, the plot becomes needlessly bloated & convoluted to the point where it ruins the film.

Speaking of plot, there are too many twists-and-turns along the way. It builds-up nicely, then just falls through spectacularly, thus undermining the stakes completely. It's so frustrating, and lacking in discipline. And while the CGI & action remains as groundbreaking as ever, it's mostly flash & little substance this time around, which goes against everything that made previous Iron Man flicks (and The Avengers) so special.

But whereas the film's plot crumbles under its own weight, fans can still expect top-notch performances from most of the cast. As ever, Robert Downey Jr. DOES NOT disappoint. He is to Tony Stark/Iron Man what Christopher Reeve was to Superman. Because of Downey's real-life problems, he can relate to the character of Tony Stark in a way no one else could. Robert just continues to live & breathe the role, to the point where it's virtually impossible to imagine anyone else donning the suit.

Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) & Don Cheadle (James Rhodes/Iron Patriot) continue to flourish in their colourful parts of the supporting-cast, and there's also strong performances from the likes of Rebecca Hall (Dr. Maya Hansen), Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian) and young Ty Simpkins as Harley (who I reckon has got a bright future ahead of him). But the most prominent display comes from the legendary Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. Kingsley simply steals every scene he's in as the majestic warlord, matching the presences of Jeff Bridges & Mickey Rourke from previous films. The only thing that hampers Kingsley is the reduced screen-time he receives, and how wasted his role (and talent) is under Shane Black's direction. It's another frustrating thing about this film!

Normally, the third-entries in superhero film trilogies are generally regarded as the weakest. I had hopes for Iron Man 3, especially after marvelling at Iron Mans 1 & 2, the Avengers, and of course the whole Dark Knight Trilogy. But alas, Iron Man 3 sadly falters. It's an okay (at best) flick, but unlike Spider-Man 3 or X-Men: The Last Stand, Iron Man 3 is something I just couldn't enjoy all the way through. Has its moments, and by the end, it concludes this trilogy satisfactorily, but it has far too many blemishes going against it. A great, great shame.

Doctor Who - Series 7 Part 2 [DVD]
Doctor Who - Series 7 Part 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matt Smith
Price: £10.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Welcome aboard, Clara! Geronimo!, 31 July 2013
After over two years, Amy & Rory were gone from the Doctor's life. And the finality of their departure was one of the most heartbreaking exits in Doctor Who. And for that to cap-off a string of really consistent episodes, made the first-half of Doctor Who: Series 7 a true winner, perhaps the best since Series 4.

And how does Steve Moffat decide to follow-up on his major-turning point? Midway through the series? He revamps the show. There's new opening credits, new theme music, brand-new TARDIS interior and a change of attire for Matt Smith; all of which are really snazzy, and the best way to move on from the Pond-era, and into the next chapter of Matt Smith's tenure as the Eleventh Doctor.

Following the tragic departures of Amy & Rory, the Doctor has once again fallen into deep despair. But unlike previous mourning for lost companions, the Doctor has decided to retire from travelling/adventuring altogether! It seems legitimate, until a mysterious young woman called Clara enters the Time Lord's life. She soon perks him back up, but there's something else about this new companion...something hauntingly familiar. Has he met her before?

After the singular-episode format for Part 1 of Series 7, Moffat further changes the creative direction by reverting back to typical story-arc mode (which has become Doctor Who's trademark since the series' 2005 relaunch). It works for this second-part of Series 7, as Moffat's `Impossible Girl' arc merits such treatment. And unlike the overly-convoluted `Death of the Doctor' arc that ruined Series 6 for me...Moffat doesn't go overboard this time, producing & resolving his latest mystery with great coherence, intricacies and satisfaction.

As ever, Matt Smith is on form with his Doctor. This Eleventh version of the Time Lord can only grow from strength-to-strength, and it's certainly benefitted from the major development the character received in "The Angels Take Manhattan", which Matt uses to drive his ace-rendition of the Time Lord even further.

But really, the greatest strength of Series 7: Part 2 is Jenna-Louise Coleman herself (returning from her guest-role in "Asylum of the Daleks"). As Clara, Jenna has instant chemistry with Matt, and is a real breath of fresh-air, infusing such life into the Doctor's newest companion. Speaking of which, Clara is a natural companion who fits all the criteria; beautiful, brilliant, relatable, courageous, compassionate etc, but who also has an independent streak from the Doctor that sets her apart from her predecessors. Clara's personality shines through, and while the character's depth/development takes a while to emerge, Jenna's performance makes her a real winner. This mysterious `reincarnation' aspect about Clara is handled very well, and it isn't dragged out for ages like River Song's identity or the whole-tedious `Silence will Fall' palaver.

However, from a consistency standpoint, this second-half of Series 7 doesn't match the overall excellence of Part 1, or Series 4 for that matter. To start with the 2012 Christmas Special, `The Snowmen' is absolutely rubbish. After SUCH a promising-start to Series 7, this Christmas Special degenerates into an embarrassing shambles full of flat moments, pantomime-silliness and the relief that it finally came to an end! Not even Matt & Jenna could save this one! `The Snowmen' is such a disappointment, and the worst Christmas Special I've ever seen in Doctor Who.

However, Moffat really redeems himself with his writing in the following episode "The Belles of Saint John", a hugely-satisfying romp that's full of heart, and a great story. As the Doctor continues to investigate the mystery behind that Impossible Girl, he now meets a THIRD version of Clara (who becomes his full-time companion), and uncovers a sinister Wi-Fi plot(!) headed by Celia Imrie (excellent as ever!).

Why I love "The Belles of Saint John" so much is because it hearkens back to what made the Russell T. Davies era so special. There's plenty of human-warmth, character & riveting adventure, and it's perfect in (re)introducing Clara, and kicking-off this latest batch of new Doctor/Companion adventures. It sets the standard for the rest of the arc, and it gains more points for further-establishing Old-Who baddie The Great Intelligence (last seen in 1968!) as a worthy main-antagonist for the rest of the series.

Unfortunately, other episodes are hit-and-miss overall. Episodes like "The Rings of Akhaten" are beautifully moving, and "Cold War" is a great reintroduction to more Old-Who baddies (The Ice Warriors). But "Hide" ends up so underwhelming after a really tense, scary start. "The Crimson Horror" is simply dire, and "Nightmare in Silver" - which features an awesome redesign for the Cybermen - fails to live up to the hype, because it focuses too much on irritating kids and the Doctor playing chess with himself!

Another big problem is Stephen Thompson's "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS". For forty-minutes, it's a huge rollercoaster-epic, featuring long-awaited development for Clara and the mystery surrounding her. It shapes up to be the best episode of the series, but then it's squandered in the last five minutes by a clichéd and frustrating ending. It's a blemish this portion of the series really could've done without.

Thankfully, series-finale "The Name of the Doctor" rounds things off with a true bang. Boasting a really-dark atmosphere, a sinister performance from Richard E. Grant (as the Great Intelligence), and the returning River Song (Alex Kingston). It's also Clara's finest hour, resolving the `Impossible Girl' mystery in winning-style, as well as setting the scene for the 50th Anniversary Special with a jaw-dropping cliff-hanger! I can't wait to see what happens next!

It's unfortunate that Part 2 falters in places, especially after Part 1 was so essential. It does bring the overall mark down for Series 7, but Doctor Who is still going strong after what's (essentially) a really strong batch of episodes. Again, not as consistent as Part 1, but this is still a box-set that's worth having.

Roll on the 50th Anniversary Special!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 5, 2013 1:04 PM BST

Justice League: Star Crossed - The Movie [DVD] [2005]
Justice League: Star Crossed - The Movie [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Justice League
Price: £3.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT a finale! Roll on Unlimited!, 7 July 2013
First, we had Batman: The Animated Series. Then, we had Superman: The Animated Series. And then after that, we had the next logical step in Bruce Timm & Paul Dini's DC Animated Universe was Justice League.

And like its predecessors, Justice League was nothing less than a masterpiece of a series. Not only did it further develop these already-well established renditions of Batman & Superman (to critical acclaim), it also finally introduced the likes of Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter & Hawkgirl, took the Flash (from his one-off appearance in STAS) and a Green Lantern (John Stewart), and infused all of them with the same humanity, warmth, depth & charisma as Batman & Superman. The end result? An overall masterpiece that expanded this wonderful animated universe in several stunningly creative ways.

And Starcrossed is the high-point for the Justice League series. After so many epic adventures, thwarting the likes of Darkseid, Vandal Savage, Brainiac, Lex Luthor and the Joker...we had the shocking Season Finale. It was a major turning point for the entire DC Animated Universe, conclusively ended Justice League, and set the scene for the awesome Justice League Unlimited (the high-point of this entire DC animated spectrum).

Throughout Justice League, all the members received great character focus and development...and for the big finale, Hawkgirl (Shayera Hol) undergoes the biggest character change of them all. In Starcrossed, it's revealed that she's actually a spy for her Thanagarian race, sent out on an undercover mission to infiltrate the Earth & the Justice League. Grave consequences soon follow for the team and Earth...and by the end, nothing will ever be the same for anyone.

Unlike The Batman/Superman Movie (which spliced the three-part World's Finest into one film), Starcrossed receives no such feature-length treatment (despite the `Movie' title). It's still the same three-part episode, and it's presented as such. Nevertheless, it's an emotional, roller-coaster epic, full of shocking twists-and-turns, a great plot and such heart. It's basically everything we can expect from the DC Animated Universe at it's absolute best.

All the League members have their great moments, and each shines through in terms of prowess, character-focus & interaction, but the stars here are truly Hawkgirl & Green Lantern, whose complicated love-story is one of the major facets for this & Justice League Unlimited. The Thanagarians themselves are equally deep & compelling antagonists (particularly the tragic & complicated Hro Talak), and there are such dramatic, epic battle sequences to cement the high-stakes.

From a production-standpoint, Starcrossed is typical Warner Bros. Animation quality. From voice-acting to soundtrack, the DVD scores perfect marks again, but the animation is a leap from what Justice League has been in the past. It's just as awesome as the animation for Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, and you know that this level of quality is what you would expect for the Unlimited series. It's the mark of excellence, especially that genuine tear-jerker of an ending!

There's also some great special-features on here, such as character bios, documentaries, deleted scenes & trailers. Nifty little extras indeed to accompany what's genuinely essential for fans of the original comics and the whole DC Animated Universe. Justice League: Starcrossed is an absolutely epic and heartbreaking story, one that's so mature for a kid's cartoon. An absolute bargain that MUST be picked up!

Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4)
Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4)
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as pioneering as The Da Vinci Code...but still another excellent dose of Brown!, 26 Jun. 2013
Really, Dan Brown's name & legacy were cemented forever in 2003 when the world-wide bestseller The Da Vinci Code hit bookshop-shelves. Boasting a terrifically engaging plot, beautifully poetic writing, deliciously-deep characters and intricate narrative & pacing, Dan Brown's novel took the world by storm. It's truly one of my favourite all-time books, and I was hooked from start-to-finish.

Now, ten years later (in 2013), Mister Brown's latest (much-hyped) novel has arrived. Inferno is Dan's sixth novel, and the FOURTH to feature his trademark protagonist, Professor Robert Langdon.

An academic like Robert always seems to find himself in a great spot of difficulty in Dan's stories. Inferno is no different. This time round, he awakes in a hospital bed in Florence, Italy, with no idea how he got there, or why he's carrying a deadly biological agent that's been sewn into the lining of his jacket.

Before anyone can answer his questions, though...the poor Professor is forced to flee from an assassination attempt. With Doctor Sienna Brooks inadvertently thrust into his situation, Langdon is now being hunted from local authorities, his own government & a mysterious organization. The mystery grows darker and deeper as Robert & Sienna flee across Florence, relying only on Dante's masterpiece Inferno, to guide them.

Like The Da Vinci Code, this is quite an advanced & intelligent thrill-ride. There's genuine moments of excitement, action & tension throughout, all-the-while laced with intrigue, suspense and a really engaging plot.

Most of the things I really dug about The Da Vinci Code can be found here. Enlightening facts, strong use of a historical, iconic figure (in this case, Dante), truly memorable & purposeful characters, great dialogue and some really nice development for all the players. As ever, Robert Langdon is a strong protagonist, who interacts well with the host of new characters he meets this time.

Admittedly, though, Inferno isn't QUITE the revolutionary masterpiece that The Da Vinci Code is, and there are times when it does drag too long before changing into a higher gear. But when it does, the pace and plot take off in a genuinely jaw-dropping fashion, with incredible high-stakes and consequences for all. All sub-plots come together, & all the mysteries/loose ends are resolved satisfactorily. The ending itself is a genuinely provocative, intelligent and logical conclusion, which will provide a great shock for all readers.

Alas, Dan Brown's writing style is well-known for alienating many readers. If you're one of those people who don't like his full descriptions of settings & characters, or his flair for poetic verse, then there's nothing here that will encourage critics to change their minds. And if you're a newcomer who's never been exposed to any Dan Brown before, The Da Vinci Code is a more suitable book to start with than Inferno.

As ever, the issue on some of the supposed-facts, scientific research, protocols etc, presented here is up for debate. Whether the `truths' used here for plot-sake are genuine or not...that's up to you. Some experts are bound to pick holes in Brown's research as much as they did with The Da Vinci Code.

Nevertheless, Inferno is a cracking good read. While not quite on a par with The Da Vinci Code, this is still one of the best books of the year, and will doubtless satisfy the legion of Dan Brown fans out there. A terrific experience indeed.

Random Access Memories
Random Access Memories
Price: £5.00

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If ONLY there was more to this album than TWO excellent songs!, 26 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Random Access Memories (Audio CD)
Initially, I thought Daft Punk were a group who had just come out of the blue. Learning of their history & career has been a fascinating experience, and that - along with their SUPERB gimmick & flair for music - made purchase of Random Access Memories an experience I just had to indulge in.

Since forming in 1993, the duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo & Thomas Bangalter have had many a hit album, such as Homework (1997) and Discovery (2001), but Random Access Memories (their most commercially & critically successful album to-date) has finally garnered them international recognition as a household name.

But does this chart-hit live up to the hype? For me, no. And it's a real shame that it doesn't.

Daft Punk's talent is blatant, and they prove their capabilities with a variety of instruments, and their synthesising techniques. At their best, Daft Punk can produce some beautifully harmonious stuff (especially when collaborating with other artists) that will appeal to general audiences. Unfortunately, their work here is too inconsistent. Of the thirteen tracks on his album, there are only TWO that are truly great, with the rest ranging from okay-to-dire.

Songs like `Give Life Back To Music' and `Get Lucky' are simply fantastic, and are proof of what Daft Punk can achieve at their best. The synchronisation, the harmony, the lyrics, the use of vocoders and actual voices is all seamless in both these songs, and will generate genuine happiness & pleasure for listeners.

Annoyingly, though the rest of Random Access Memories is so disjointed, with results being mixed. Again, in `Give Life Back to Music' & `Get Lucky', the results are perfect, but songs like `Within', `Instant Crush' & `Touch' are just let down completely by the synthesised vocals and rapidly changing compositions which just throw you completely. There are too many times when pieces just felt flat, repetitive or bipolar. And as such I ended up being more confused, underwhelmed or tired than elated.

All this is disappointing, as I can't get over just how great some of the songs are on this album. It shows that Daft Punk can be the stuff of legend if they focused more on consistency. I just wish that Random Access Memories was excellent from start-to-finish. And I don't think it's worth paying full-price for an album with only two essential songs on it.

I really wish I could rate Daft Punk higher. And I sorely wish Random Access Memories had lived up to the hype. In my opinion, download `Give Life Back to Music' & `Get Lucky' individually, and forget the rest of the songs. Otherwise, you maybe really disappointed.

by Kerry Wilkinson
Edition: Audio CD

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really...there's no reason to NOT buy this!, 31 May 2013
This review is from: Vigilante (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At first glance, Vigilante sounded like a title that was right up my alley. A thrilling detective novel, set in Manchester, about a strong female protagonist who's tasked with apprehending a mysterious serial killer who's offing notorious criminals. But the waters are severely muddied by forensic evidence which implicates a man who's already locked away in prison.

What helps this story is the fact that Kerry Wilkinson produces a novel that's legitimately gripping, intelligent, realism, full of research, humanity & character. It's easily one of the best books in recent memory I've been subjected to, and easily recommended to all mature readers.

This is Kerry Wilkinson's SECOND book in his detective series, focusing on one Jessica Daniel (Detective Sergeant). It's another day in the life of a busy, honest & determined police officer, so those who haven't read Wilkinson's first outing (Locked In) needn't worry. Wilkinson recaps the events of his first No.1 bestseller throughout, doing so in a way that doesn't hamper current events. In other words, Vigilante is perfectly accessible to new readers, who will find this second volume a fantastic introduction into the character of Jessica Daniel (as was the case with me).

Jessica herself is a remarkably deep & colourful character. She's as human as they come. She's tragic, she's determined, she's resolute, she can be rude, manipulative, compassionate, fun, stubborn, strong, brilliant, vulnerable, immoral, remorseful, brave etc. She has plenty of identity and layers, and is surrounded by an equally deep and memorable supporting cast. There are no real duffs in this great piece of literature. And Wilkinson provides some rich interaction, develop the characters so skilfully, and in a way that's true to human-life.

The plot itself is masterfully done. There are all manner of shocks, twists & turns and red-herrings that will constantly have you fooled and keep you guessing. The identity of the "Vigilante" is so well-guarded that its ultimate revelation comes across as a genuine shock. Kerry juggles so many sub-plots with such coherency and a clear narrative, that it makes the pacing of the book nothing less than a thing of excellence. It's virtually faultless!

In this audiobook format, Vigilante is spread over eight discs and runs for over nine-hours. Becky Hindley provides the narration and does Kerry's writing absolute justice. Her soft-spoken tone serves her and the story well throughout, and really comes into play throughout moments of tension, drama, danger, lightheartedness or simple conversation. Becky offers a really versatile performance hear which just simply works.

I can't really find anything wrong with Vigilante. It's just a brilliant, engaging story that Kerry Wilkinson has crafted expertly. And it's certainly got me wanting to read other volumes in his Jessica Daniel series. Simply an ace piece of work, especially as an audiobook. Buy today!

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